Some years ago I wrote about the three moments of pain: When? Now! Whew! Dorothee Soelle described two of those moments as “scream” and “wait” in her reflections on Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
I’ve been reminded of them this week since my herniated disk went out again on Sunday. It mostly hurts when I move, particularly first thing in the morning when I have to take Sammie out to do his business in the cold rain. After I took him out yesterday, I got on the elevator to go back to the apartment and just leaned against the back wall, feeling nothing but screaming neurons. I realized that I had been completely caught in Now! when the door opened and another person started to get on. I had not pushed the button to go up.
When I get back from moving around, I get relief by sitting quietly with a heating pad on my back. Whew! After a while I don’t hurt at all, but when it’s time to get up, I start to feel When? anticipating the hurt.
I’ve talked before about using awareness to deal with itches that arise while I’m meditating. I was hoping that similar techniques might help with real physical pain. So far I haven’t tried to do that without the heating pad and bad language. So I practice with them.
At least practice has taught me not to stick myself with the second arrow. We may not be able to avoid physical pain (the first arrow), but we don’t have to cause suffering by using it to upset ourselves (the second arrow).
One who seeks their own happiness
would pluck out the dart from themselves—
the wailing and moaning,
and sadness inside.
With dart plucked out, unattached,
having found peace of mind,
overcoming all sorrow,
one is sorrowless and extinguished. Snp 3.8.